UK negotiations and newly appointed Commissioner top EU headlines in current COVID-19 climate.

by RPP
Weekly European political updates

UK negotiations and newly appointed Commissioner top EU headlines in current COVID-19 climate.

Europe is a colourful continent in terms of policies and outcomes. It is essential to stay updated on how these policies may impact your work to build better regulatory frameworks, enhance your message and enhance communication with stakeholders. Here you can find a summary of the major European political updates of this week.    

 

United Kingdom 

The main political news in the UK this week has been the UK’s approach to the eighth round of the UK-EU trade negotiations, which are ongoing. Boris Johnson has indicated that the UK is prepared to leave EU-UK negotiations if an agreement is not reached by mid-October, as key issues remain in the UK’s autonomy in providing state aid and catchment limitations of fish caught in UK and international waters. The UK is set to further undermine talks in its proposals set out in the Internal Market Bill published today. The Bill is foreseen to eliminate certain legal elements of the Withdrawal Agreement – under the Bill, the UK would no longer be required to notify the EU on state aid changes, and Northern Irish businesses would no longer be required to file export summary declarations when exporting to Great Britain. Raising the stakes further, on 9 September the Northern Ireland Secretary stated that the Bill “does break international law in a very specific and limited way”, in a deliberate move to push the EU to change its position on state aid.

In other EU news, following the resignation of Phil Hogan, Irish MEP Mairead McGuinness has been appointed as European Commissioner and will be given the financial services portfolio. Having been an MEP since 2004 and currently holding a vice-president post in the European Parliament, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen commended McGuinness’ capabilities, which are derivative of her vast political portfolio. To that end, von der Leyen explained that such experience is fundamental in the trajectory of the EU’s financial policy agenda, which aims at consolidating the Commission’s green and digitally oriented priorities.

Spain

Although President Pedro Sánchez announced that the first set of COVID-19 vaccinations are expected to be administered by December, experts have warned both the President and the Health Minister that their remarks may have been too optimistic. Spain is meant to receive 3 million doses of the vaccine developed by the University of Oxford and AstraZeneca, which at this point is in phase 3. The health emergencies coordinator, Fernando Simón, pointed out that in any case, vulnerable groups (population over 65 years old) as well as health professionals, will be amongst the first to get vaccinated.

On a separate note, the government has approved the National Strategy for Science, Technology and Innovation for 2021-2027, announced earlier in July. Although the plan was being developed before the pandemic, its contents clearly reveal the impact of the health crisis on the intended direction. In fact, the strategy has been divided into two phases, with the first phase (set to take place between 2021 and 2023) focusing on the healthcare sector, ecological transition and digitalisation, and the second phase (which will be enacted between 2024 and 2027) aiming at using R&D to develop a knowledge-based economic model.

Germany

In connection with the poisoning of the Russian opposition politician Alexei Navalny, a major debate has developed in Germany about the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline. Chancellor Angela Merkel initially insisted on clearly separating the two issues of Navalny and Nord Stream 2. However, this position was scrutinised, with German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas (Social Democratic Party, SPD) stating that one must first wait for the reactions from Moscow and then decide on the subsequent consequences.

As the pandemic crisis persists, German policymakers begin to devise long-term proposals drawn from the COVID-19 experience. Moreover, the federal government and states announced that public health authorities will be better supported through the recruitment of additional employees and more advanced technical equipment. On 8 September, the German government also passed the Hospital Future Law, which is intended to sufficiently equip hospitals for a future expansion in available resources and healthcare organisation. With an allocation of approximately €4 billion, the federal government and the state aim to provide increased digital access in the hospitals. Furthermore, nursing staff who provide "care at the bedside” and who were particularly preoccupied with caring for COVID-19 patients are to receive a bonus salary of up to €1,000.

 

You can find more information on European news in our EU national elections heatmap, where we provide an overarching perspective with key political insight for individual countries. Make sure to check it here

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